But don’t get too hung up on those numbers and start believing Tanaka is going to be another Darvish.This is where scouting matters, as Darvish’s stuff just grades out better. Darvish features an elite upper-90s fastball and a wipeout slider among a vast arsenal of pitches, including a decent split-finger fastball. Tanaka has a solid mid-90s fastball and an excellent slider, but it’s his splitter that’s his best pitch. It’s a doozie that approaches 90 before falling off the table as it reaches the plate.For fantasy purposes, Darvish’s most decided advantage is in strikeouts. He piled up 277 last year and already has shown he can hold up to a heavy workload in averaging 200 innings in two seasons in Texas. Tanaka struck out just 7.8 per nine innings last year against Japanese hitters while Darvish was fanning MLB batters to the tune of 11.9 K/9.Tanaka has excellent control, having walked just 32 in 212 innings last year. He also held Japanese hitters to six homers, a skill he’ll need with the short right-field porch in Yankee Stadium. If he can maintain that control and limit the damage at home, he could exceed expectations.While Tanaka likely is not ready to join the rarified air of the likes of Darvish, Clayton Kershaw or Felix Hernandez, he still should be able to serve as a No. 2 fantasy pitcher. Think Kuroda or Iwakuma but with a few more strikeouts, making Tanaka a borderline top-20 starting pitcher and someone to target in rounds 8-10 in mixed leagues.Other international signingsTanaka wasn’t the only big international signing this offseason. The White Sox and Dodgers wasted little time in October, when they dipped into the Cuban hotbed that has produced quite a bounty of hitters in recent years, led by Yaseil Puig in L.A. and Yoenis Cespedes in Oakland.The White Sox signed Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract to take over first base for the aging Paul Konerko, who is coming back as a bench player for likely one last season. Meanwhile, the Dodgers gave a four-year, $28 million deal to Alex Guerrero to compete for the vacant second base job after Mark Ellis signed with St. Louis.Abreu and Guerrero likely will produce decent power for their position, but fantasy owners should beware of some holes in their games.Abreu is coming off a down season by his standards and batted .316 with 19 home runs in 83 games in the Cuban professional league. In the 2010-11 season, Abreu batted .453 with 33 home runs in 63 games despite missing time with a shoulder injury. Over the past four seasons, he hit a combined .392 with 133 homers.The knock on Abreu is he can’t handle inside fastballs and MLB pitchers certainly will test him there early and often. The soon-to-be 27-year-old’s raw power is for real, befitting his 6-foot-2, 258-pound frame. That big body leaves him with no speed on the basepaths and makes him a liability on defense, possibly relegating him to DH.A fair projection for this season is a .260 average and 25 home runs with a chance to hit 30 homers. First base is loaded as usual, so Abreu ranks No. 23 at the position on my blog at www.rotoace.com and makes for a good late-round flier in shallow leagues.Guerrero is a bit trickier, as scouts are divided on how his power will play here. He hit .290 with 21 home runs in 328 plate appearances in his final season in Cuba. But the 27-year-old’s aggressive, uppercut stroke and pull-oriented approach have scouts worried that major-league pitchers will chew him up.Guerrero is being given the upper hand in a spring competition with Dee Gordon for the starting second base job. If Guerrero and Gordon stumble, don’t be surprised to see the Dodgers in the market for a solid veteran by midseason. With $28 million invested in Guerrero, he will get every chance to take the job and run.Fantasy owners should think of Guerrero as a high-risk, possible high-reward pick in deep mixed or NL-only leagues. Think .250 with 12 homers but no speed and hope Puig rubs off on Guerrero, giving you a second baseman with some pop.Mind you, scouts had more than their fair share of doubts about Puig coming out of Cuba, but he delivered the scintillating stat line of .319 with 19 homers and 11 steals in 104 games.This type of high ceiling is what makes Abreu and Guerrero excellent players to target in the later [email protected] For more fantasy baseball analysis and position rankings, read Rudy’s blog at www.rotoace.com. These are questions being asked by the legions of fantasy baseball owners who are beginning their draft preparations in earnest, now that spring training has arrived.It just so happens the two biggest busts among the Japanese import pitchers were Yankees signees — Irabu to a four-year, $12.8 million contract in 1997 and Igawa to a five-year, $20 million deal in 2006. Irabu, or “Fat Toad” as Yankees owner George Steinbrenner infamously called him, posted a 5.07 ERA over parts of three seasons in New York. Igawa was even worse with a downright evil 6.66 ERA in parts of two seasons.After Nomo opened the floodgates by becoming an immediate sensation after coming to the Dodgers in 1995, there was a steady flow of disappointments, most notably Kaz Ishii with the Dodgers and Daisuke Matsuzaka with the Red Sox. That has changed in recent years with the successes of Hiroki Kuroda, Hisashi Iwakuma and Darvish.Kuroda and Iwakuma have turned in eight solid MLB seasons between them. But it’s Darvish who has become a true ace after finishing second in AL Cy Young voting while leading the majors in strikeouts last year for the Rangers.Tanaka is coming off one of the best seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball history, going an amazing 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA. His totals in his last three NPL years of 53-9 with a 1.44 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 593 strikeouts in 611 1/3 innings match up quite favorably with Darvish’s 45-19, 1.64, 0.91, 665 Ks in 616 IP over his final three seasons in Japan. While the baseball world has been consumed by the Masahiro Tanaka saga nearly all offseason, Angels and Dodgers fans were holding out hope to the end that their team would land the 25-year-old Japanese ace.Instead Dodgers fans will have to settle for Paul Maholm while the Angels already may have finished their offseason rotation additions with Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs.Now that the Yankees won by shelling out $155 million over seven years plus a $20 million posting fee, the question turns to what should we expect from Tanaka in his MLB debut season.Is he more Yu Darvish or Kei Igawa? Hideo Nomo or Hideki Irabu? Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
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